MINNEAPOLIS -- The excessive heat warning that has been in effect for parts of Minnesota reached the mound at Target Field on Tuesday night. That is where Indians starter Justin Masterson almost exclusively featured heaters.
During Cleveland's 2-1 loss to the Twins, Masterson veered from an all-fastball arsenal just once in pitching into the eighth inning. The lone exception within his 104 pitches was a 79-mph slider that he threw to Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer with one out in the fourth.
Why would Masterson throw just one offspeed offering?
"Well, you know, we thought we'd probably use it more," Masterson said with a laugh. "That one would hopefully kind of put it in the back of the head like, 'Oh, later on in the innings, is he going to throw one here? Is he not?'"
Masterson said that the end result was simply a case of "don't change what's working." The Twins scattered four singles against the right-hander and only had one baserunner advance as far as second in his 7 2/3 innings. Masterson induced 15 outs via ground balls, created two flyouts and struck out six.
In all, Masterson fired 103 fastballs, though that included both four-seamers (54) and two-seam sinkers (49). Along the way, Masterson varied his pitch velocity with the heaters, too. He ranged anywhere from 91-97 mph with his four-seam fastball and hit between 90-98 mph with his sinker.
"I was able to mix and match," Masterson said. "There's good movement on the sinker. Even within the fastballs, there was a mix, a range of velocities that also helped kind of keep them off-balance. And being able to control the inner and outer half, that's what kind of made it effective.
"It was almost like having two or three different pitches just within a fastball."
That is what enabled Masterson to throw 99 percent of his pitches for fastballs. For the season, the righty has averaged 81.8-percent fastballs and 17.3-percent sliders, according to fangraphs.com. Three seasons ago, those figures stood at 66.7 percent and 30.2 percent, respectively.
"I love the heat, man," Masterson said.
The pitcher was referring to the temperature at the ballpark, but he might as well have been talking about his repertoire.
Brantley sits with severely upset stomach
MINNEAPOLIS -- The extremely hot and humid conditions have taken a toll on Michael Brantley's body. On Wednesday, the Indians outfielder remained sidelined with a severely upset stomach.
"Michael is in pretty bad shape," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "He's still not able to eat and process food properly. He's just not playable."
Acta indicated that Brantley's ailment was initially described as heat exhaustion, which developed after Monday's day-night doubleheader against the Twins. The outfielder has been receiving fluids intravenously, according to Acta.
Cleveland's manager also noted that a handful of his players were given fluids through IVs between and after Monday's games, and also following Tuesday night's loss. Acta hoped that the off-day on Thursday would help Brantley -- the Tribe's regular left fielder -- recover in time to play on Friday at home against the White Sox.
With Brantley sidelined, and Travis Buck also unavailable after being hit in the head with a pitch on Tuesday night, Acta gave utility man Luis Valbuena the nod in left field on Wednesday afternoon. The Indians are also without outfielders Shin-Soo Choo (broken left thumb) and Grady Sizemore (right knee injury).
The Indians lost Brantley in the midst of a hot stretch at the plate, too. Over his past 11 games, Brantley has hit .412 (21-for-51) with three doubles, six RBIs and nine runs scored. In his previous 23 contests, he hit at a .174 clip with a .503 OPS.
On the season, Brantley is hitting .281 with six homers, 17 doubles and 39 RBIs in 92 games for Cleveland.
"For the most part, he's been pretty consistent," Acta said. "Like any young hitter, at times he gets out of his comfort zone, chases some pitches and gets himself out. But he's had a very good road trip so far. He's been huge for us."
Buck out with headache after beaning
MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians outfielder Travis Buck was dazed, but fortunately not at all confused in the wake of being struck on the head with a pitch in the fifth inning of Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Twins.
On Wednesday, Buck still had a headache and was out of Cleveland's starting lineup, but he was not suffering any concussion-like symptoms one day after being beaned by a fastball from Minnesota lefty Francisco Liriano.
"I passed all the tests," said Buck, who then cracked a smile. "Granted, I've taken the test many times, so I kind of knew the answers before they asked the questions."
Kidding aside, Buck and the Indians are taking a cautious approach given his history with head injuries. In 2008, Buck suffered a serious concussion while in the A's organization -- one of two head issues that he dealt with that year. On June 10 this season, Buck suffered whiplash when he was involved in a taxi accident in New York.
Asked which felt worse -- the after-effects the fender bender or being hit in the helmet by a Liriano fastball -- Buck allowed himself to smile.
"The taxi," he replied.
Acta indicated that Buck was not subject to Major League Baseball's concussion protocol after being cleared by a doctor after Tuesday's beaning. Still, the Indians manager felt it best to give the outfielder a day off on Wednesday, especially with a scheduled team off-day following on Thursday.
Buck said that he had no time to move out of the way of Liriano's pitch, considering the outfielder's approach to the at-bat. Liriano used sliders to the outside part of the plate to strike Buck out in the third inning. In the fifth, Buck kept that in mind.
"He struck me out on sliders away when I was pulling off," Buck explained. "So I told myself in the second at-bat that I've got to keep my front shoulder closed and try to stay in there. So, yeah, I had no chance."
Buck, who is hitting .243 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 45 games for the Tribe, knows that it could have been a lot worse. He is hoping to be ready to play for the Indians on Friday, when Cleveland opens a three-game set against the White Sox.
"It's very comforting for me to feel the way I do," Buck said.
Quote to note
"It was because the lefties were coming up and he had over 100 pitches in 3,000-degree weather. He did his job." --Indians manager Manny Acta, on why he pulled Justin Masterson from Tuesday's 2-1 loss in the eighth inning
The Indians have tweaked their rotation order for the upcoming series against the White Sox. Lefty David Huff will start on Saturday instead of Fausto Carmona, who will be held until the following series against the Angels. In two starts against Chicago this season, Carmona has gone 0-2 with a 20.25 ERA (18 runs in eight innings).
With both Michael Brantley (upset stomach) and Travis Buck (headaches) unavailable to start on Wednesday in Minnesota, the Indians were left with a lack of outfield depth. Manager Manny Acta noted that first baseman Matt LaPorta -- an outfielder in the past -- could be used in the outfield in an emergency situation. If Brantley and Buck were not recovered in time for Friday, Acta said that the Tribe would consider promoting an extra outfielder from the Minors.
Indians right-hander Mitch Talbot, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a back issue, made his first rehab appearance as a reliever for Triple-A Columbus on Tuesday. Talbot logged one shutout inning, in which he allowed one hit and struck out two. Cleveland is evaluating Talbot -- the team's No. 5 starter at the start of the season -- as a bullpen candidate.